Kaleidoscope opens with community
Photo by Lincoln Ross Barbour
a ceremony Feb. 26, students M Bruce (left), chair
of the Minority Rights Coalition,
and Daisy Lundy, president
of Student Council, cut the ribbon, officially opening
U.Va.’s Kaleidoscope Center for Cultural Fluency,
located in Newcomb Hall.
By Virginia E. Carter
Eight years is a long time to wait, but Juliann Robey was
thrilled to see a vision become reality on Feb. 26 when
the Kaleidoscope Center for Cultural Fluency opened
on the third floor of Newcomb Hall. Now a second-year Darden student, Robey
was president of the Class of 1996 when the class decided
to raise funds for a multicultural
center as its gift to the University.
A kaleidoscope is a rapidly changing series of scenes and patterns,” said
Robey, as she announced the center’s name. “We hope this too will
be a continually changing place where one can find the candid exchange of viewpoints.”
Syd Dorsey, a member of the University’s Board of Visitors, also joined
in the opening celebration for the new center. Acknowledging some early misgivings
about using “diversity” as a buzzword for the new space, she cautioned
that “adding the moniker of ‘diversity’ has little to do with
actually achieving any.
True harmony, understanding and respect cannot be achieved by the stroke of a
pen. It will require open minds, open hearts, widespread involvement and a lot
of effort across the University community — not just by those of you present
The success of Kaleidoscope… is not defined by its space — though
it’s a nice one — or defined by its name — though it’s
a good one — but defined by the people that are part of this University
The idea of creating a multicultural center, proposed at
various times not only by the Class of 1996 but also
by other groups, took on renewed
spring when racial tensions arose on Grounds. The student-led Minority
Rights Coalition, persistent in advocating for a space where students
together to examine issues of diversity, began meeting with administrators
Newcomb Hall Director Bill Ashby saw great potential for
such a space in Newcomb’s
third-floor informal lounge. Infrequently used by students, partially because
of the vestibule-like entryway, the lounge did not invite interaction.
Now that the renovations are complete, the space unmistakably
welcomes interaction. The double doors of glass allow
an open view into
the center. The granite-tone,
dry-erase “graffiti wall,” filled with congratulatory wishes in different
languages the day of the opening, invites free expression. Chairs are on wheels
to allow for changing set-ups and face-to-face communication. Art from students,
faculty and alumni adorn the walls. And the room’s focal point, a 61-inch,
plasma-screen TV, offers a window to the world.
The center’s most important aspect—programming—already promises
to be different. Lounge nights, sponsored by Student Council’s ad hoc committee
on social diversity, will occur every Monday night. The first Lounge Night, on
March 1, featured co-hosts N.O.W. and the College Republicans, a duo that drew
laughter when announced in the same breath at the opening celebration.
Shamim Sisson, senior associate dean of students and chairwoman
of the center’s
advisory committee, said anyone in the University community is invited and encouraged
to use the center. Topics of upcoming programs include identity and stereotypes,
global health, diversity in the media and a student artist discussion.
We are optimistic that the new center will provide many opportunities for people
to come together in ways that increase understanding and respect for differences,” Sisson
Seeing the center to fruition was a community effort. Students
from the Minority Rights Coalition, Student Council and
effort with support from Ashby and Sisson, as well as
the Office of African-American Affairs, the Office of
Continuing to represent her classmates, Robey also serves
on the advisory committee,
will remain in place to make recommendations for ongoing
operations of the center.
Ben Blanchard, a graduate architecture student, led a
team of five undergraduates in
designing the space. Blanchard worked under the guidance of
Eugenio Schettini and Amy Forbes from the Facilities
Management Design Group.
Bob Thompson from Facilities Management Renovations
led the construction
Despite the beauty of the new center, Ashby reminded
opening-day celebrants of the center’s true purpose: “We must visit here regularly and recognize
that it is not the modern technology or furnishings that make this place special.
It is the dialogue, the interaction and the time spent together in the spirit
of greater understanding that will give this place — and ultimately any
space on Grounds — special meaning.”